Hosted by
Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


Doubting the Existence of Money

Sunday, Dec. 8, 2008

3P-004 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the Fourth show of Third Paradigm. On our Thanksgiving show we looked at food and farmer issues. We'll continue that theme with resource rights activists in Campeche, Mexico. Then we'll go Shopping with a Conscience and Caroling with an Agenda. We'll play an informative video clip from Oxfam's webinar on the global food crisis, and we'll focus on Ecuador's new constitutional protection for nature. Our feature rant today will be questioning the existence of money. Is it real? Is it alive? Is it friendly? But first, we'll read a poem by Stanley Kunitz called The Layers.


The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~
From Passing Through

Families in Campeche, Mexico are also in their darkest night and roaming through wreckage. Privatization schemes and mega-projects - like the construction of large hydroelectric dams and massive agrofuels plantations - threaten their access to basic food and water resources. Now, simply for opposing the policies that jeopardize their livelihoods, activists face increasing repression and unjust prosecution, often without access to legal resources for their defense. An activist group recently targeted was Civil Resistance in Non-Payment to the Federal Electric Company. Based in Candelaria Municipality, Campeche, this organization is a member of Grassroots International's long-time ally, the Mexican Alliance for People's Self-Determination (AMAP).

Sara and Joaquin, their leaders, are being prosecuted for opposing an increase in the price of electric service, which has sky-rocketed alongside climbing oil prices and the construction of a hydroelectric dam. While the government subsidizes the cost of electric power for large, energy-dependent agribusiness corporations, the people are left to foot the bill. At the same time, privatization of land and water reserves to produce agrofuels and hydropower diminishes the capacity of rural families to produce food and income.

As one member of AMAP put it: "First, our land is invaded by large dams to produce energy. Second comes an electric bill that few can afford to pay. Third, those who demonstrate against the high cost of electric service are violently repressed. Fourth, organizers of demonstrations are arrested and charged with terrorism and formation of gangs. With no resources to pay for a lawyer or find a pro-bono one, working families and indigenous people in Mesoamerica are facing trumped-up charges and harsh sentences for their ultimate decision to defend their resources rights."

To sign onto a letter asking to end persecution of resource rights activists, please go to the website of Grassroots International.


Resources and workers make the world go round. Protecting the latter are SweatFree Communities and the International Labor Rights Forum. They've teamed up once again to release the 2009 Shop with a Conscience Consumer Guide, filled with excellent products made in good working conditions. All retailers and wholesalers listed in the guide have undergone a rigorous application process – and when these guys say it, you know it's true. Liana Foxvog of Sweatfree Communities and Trina Tocco of the ILRF were in town recently, and came to talk to my High School group about making the Santa Cruz, CA school district sweatfree. These are some bulldog activists after my own heart.

Caroling for Fair Trade

Also in the holiday spirit, in July, Global Exchange asked readers to write Christmas carols with a fair trade twist. Among the ones they put in their Fair Trade Carol book is the "Jingle Sells" which I wrote with my 14-yr-old Olivia, and "I'm Dreaming of a Fair Trade Christmas" written with my 16-yr-old Veronica. I saw Grant Wilson at the Human Rights Fair yesterday in SC, who gets a group of alternative carolers together every year in front of Urban Outfitters. He's promised to record them to play on the show. At the Fair, the Raging Grannies put some very funny lyrics to some classics – they sang "Brother, can you spare a billion" about the bail-out, and one about getting the House ready for Obama. My daughters and I are continuing that tradition because you're never too young to be a raging Granny. Next week we'll play an original song by a High School student called No Torture, which won the Amnesty contest at the fair, and a song my 10-yr-old daughter and I wrote about child slavery on cocoa plantations. It's pretty uplifting – really! We'll also present more information about how Felton won the fight to buy back their water and we'll hear the trailer to the movie thriller FLOW, about the privatization of water.

[Sundance Film Festival – FLOW]

Meanwhile, we're breaking down Wal-Mart's doors to get a 4 am jump on Christmas shopping, and starvation has driven other populations to food riots and overthrowing governments. Oxfam has an ongoing series on the global food crisis called On the Ground. In the latest segment, Galeen Kripte presented a chart showing that food prices have risen 83% in the last three years. Locally-grown produce and meat are relatively unaffected, but staples, which are shipped and controlled by international commodities traders, have doubled or more in price. To make matters worse, a color-coded map shows that the developed countries spend less than 25% of their income on food, but other countries spend over 50%. For the latter group, staples are the vast majority of their food source, but are less than 10% of ours. So when the cost of staples doubles, the jump in prices is minor for us, but is causing other families to pull children out of school, to forego medicine, to eat lower-quality food, or to eat what isn't food at all. In this portion of the video, Galeen talks about the effects on Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Haiti.

But in Ecuador, new life is rising out of the ashes of the neo-liberal model. For the first time, a constitution has been approved which gives rights to nature, as if it's something real like... a corporation! These are the five articles that recognize the rights of nature:

Articles approved by
Ecuador's Constitutional Assembly
July 7th, 2008

Chapter: Rights for Nature

Article 1 [N2] Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms...*

Article 2 [N3] Nature has the right to an integral restoration... In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation of non renewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Article 3 [N4] The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.

Article 4 [N5] The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles. The introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic patrimony is prohibited.

Article 5 [N6] The persons, people, communities and nationalities will have the right to benefit from the environment and form natural wealth that will allow wellbeing. The environmental services cannot be appropriated; its production, provision, use and exploitation will be regulated by the State.

 * "public organisms" in Article 1 means the courts and government agencies, i.e., the people of Ecuador would be able to privately enforce nature rights.

This information came through The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. They're an amazing group that's at the forefront of community sovereignty. We'll be hearing much more about them in episodes to come. In another exciting move in Ecuador, they've done an extensive audit of their debt – what they consider legitimate and what they might not consider paying. Stay tuned for further updates on this.

We'll now go to break and return with our feature analysis - Doubting the Existence of Money. As a fitting lead-in to the topic, this is Arcade Fire with a song called Intervention.

[Arcade Fire – Intervention]

Featured Topic - Doubting the Existence of Money

On our Sunday editorials, we've been discussing God as a concept that is open to debate – whether or not we believe that God exists, we first have to define what our concept of God is. Money, however, is also a concept. Whether it's backed by gold or oil or the vaporware of an electronic blip, none of these things have value except what we agree to give it. Also like God, it's a concept that's talked about, and we can live our whole lives by its rules, but never define it. It's assumed that everyone knows what we mean by money or God. We may fiercely reject both, but we don't get to the heart of it by challenging its authority, by which I mean its authorship. Authority comes from the word author. Who is the author of the concept of money? Who is the author of our concept of God? Even more than God, money is given the status of personhood, and characterized as a living thing. "Money doesn't grow on trees," we say. Underlying that is the assumption that it does and should grow, under the tender loving care of banks and stockbrokers. "Put your money to work for you," solicitations read, as if money had hands. But wealth, true wealth, only comes about through the interaction of two things – labor and resources. Money provides neither.

The worst effect of the myth of money isn't on us. Money is seen as giving a microfraction of the world's population the right to own 75% of the land and its resources. Trade agreements give corporations the right to sue governments if they enact labor or environmental laws that threaten their future earnings. Money's rights trump individual human rights and even trump the rights of nature and humanity.

Money is a One-Way Conveyer Belt

So if we agree that money is a concept, a symbol, what is it a symbol of? If something represents another thing, you should be able to take out the representation and show the real process or relationship it stands for. Part of our vocabulary, our common ideology, is that money is a unit of trade. When I explain this to students, what I have them do is look at the tags in the backs of each other's shirts and figure out where they were made. Then I ask them, "What does your parents' labor do for the people who live in this country?" I've yet to find anyone who makes a living by providing a good or service in return to the world's producers. How is this possible that our whole society produces almost nothing for our own needs, and nothing that goes in trade to those who do produce what we need or want to live?

If you take the concept of money out, there is no trade. Free trade agreements aren't free, aren't trade, and aren't agreements. Unless you count the products made by people we consider illegal, none of our labor and resources go out of this country to the people making our products and growing our food. Money is a one-way conveyor belt to bring the products of other people's labor and resources to the supposed "owners" of the land, of the factories, of the equipment, and of the shipping channels – even though each of these is built and operated by those who aren't included.

Money is an Increment of Advantage

So what is money really? I believe that it's a fictional increment of advantage. Let me say that again – an incremental and fictitious measure of one person's advantage over another. It's as if we took nothing and sliced it up into infitesimal pieces that we could then count, manipulate, calculate, and use. The authors of this fiction are the "owner" class – the mythical microfraction of the world's population. They parcel out little bits of their advantage to us. We're the collaborator class who are essential for the system to work. If we didn't go along with it, no military would back up their claims. Money, in the form of college education, buys our willingness to go to war. The wars keep the products flowing that the money buys. The cheap overseas products destroy our ability to make a living by making and growing things at home. This forces youth into college under the promise that they can join the ruling class that makes the money that gets the products. It's a vicious circle except for the owner class, for whom it works very well.

Money is an Empire Chip in the Global Casino

In effect, what we've done is take something that doesn't exist, and broken it into finite and measurable pieces. If you can measure something, does it make it real? Do the emperor's clothes exist if you have their exact specifications? What money is in our society is empire chips – tokens of the empire's appreciation. For someone who serves in a minor capacity, say, a janitor in a school, they throw them a few empire chips. If someone, however, figures out a tax loophole to hide lots of empire chips in, they deserve a bigger reward. These are like gambling chips in the big casino we call the business world.

When we continue with this theme we'll ask:

  1. Does giving a country money give them advantage?
    1. The Peru FTA model
    2. Pro-development = pro-dependency
    3. Money and food production as opposite means of security
    4. Technoserve
  2. Does advantage serve us?
    1. The oxymoron of financial independence
    2. The slave is not dependent on the master
  3. Going cold turkey without the turkey
    1. The food crisis comes home to roost
    2. Labor –out of the pan and throwing kerosene on the fire
    3. Third generation lap cats
  4. And finally, we'll see how we can gradually back down from our faith in money, so when we're pushed off the precipice that our "advantage" has built, we don't have as far to fall.
  5. How to break our advantage addiction
    1. Lowering the bar by 10% a year
    2. Upping the community ante by 2 hrs a week
    3. The inverse Midas touch – turning gold back into lives

This has been Tereza Coraggio as your host of Third Paradigm, broadcasting from Free Radio Santa Cruz. Thank you to Skidmark Bob for production, editing and music.

We'll leave you with a song by DeVotchKa called How It Ends, which was featured in the wonderful film "Little Miss Sunshine." Thank you for listening.

[DeVotchKa – How It Ends]

[ – Little Miss Sunshine Teaser]